Two similar questions today regarding spinach:
spinach has oxalic acid in it, and that this substance will cause the nutrients in what you are eating to not be absorbed as well. Is that true? And if so , to what degree? Cooking kills the digestive enzymes too .
Yes the oxalic acid in raw spinach is a factor to consider, but not a big factor for most people.
It would be best to eat most of your spinach sauteed in butter or lightly steamed. It is ok to eat raw spinach but maybe not a huge amount on a daily basis. I eat it both ways, maybe 3 or 4 days a week. There is not exact amount that can be prescribed for each person.
Having butter on veggies allows for better mineral absorption.
Haas, MD says, "Foods that are high in oxalic acid - such as spinach, rhubarb, chard, and chocolate-can interfere with calcium, magnesium (and other minerals like iron) absorption by forming insoluble salts in the gut. Phytic acid, or phytates, found in whole grain foods may reduce the absorption of calcium and other minerals as well.
Leafy greens like,kale, mustard and turnip greens have lower oxalic acid levels than spinach.
The point is, spinach and leafy greens are packed with nutrients that benefit the body: 1 cup raw spinach has 2 mg iron, 15 calories, fiber, Vitamin A (4500IU /cup), folic acid, vitamin C, Potassium, magnesium, calcium, copper, manganese, zinc. It is rich in phytonutrients (beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin) which protect against damage to cell structure. While it is true that the oxalic acid will bind some of the minerals we don't need to throw the baby out with the bath water. Go ahead and eat spinach, and mix it up between cooked and raw.
Mateljan said, "In every peer reviewed research study I've seen, the ability of oxalates to lower calcium absorption definitely exists, but is relatively small, and definitely does not outweigh the ability of oxalate-containing foods."If you are concerned about oxalates, cooking spinach would actually be a way to reduce its oxalate content by 5 - 15%. If you want to eat raw spinach choose organic baby spinach which has a lower oxalate content than mature spinach (Mateljan).
One 2008 study on iron concluded: "our findings strongly suggest that oxalic acid in fruits and vegetables is of minor relevance in iron nutrition."
If you are concerned about lower minerals, there are many factors that can reduce minerals like poor absorption. A big cause is low stomach acid and taking acid-lowering medication. According to Haas, calcium, iron and zinc are the minerals most commonly deficient in the diet.
Iron sources: vegetables have the poorly absorbed nonheme from of iron.
The best source of iron is the heme form from flesh foods, especially beef and liver but also fish, other meat, poultry (especially dark meat). Eat both forms to increase your iron absorption.
Increase mineral absorption: Make sure stomach acids are high enough and stop taking Tums and acid-lowering drugs (it may be necessary to supplement with Betaine HCl, see procedure below) eat animal flesh foods, cook in iron skillet, don't drink pop and watch the coffee and black tea, don't eat whole grains (have phytates).
If you are prone to kidney stones then you would want to follow a low-oxalate diet, but this is controversial. Some studies show oxalates aren't a big cause of stones. I think common sense, eat them in moderation. Also, increase water intake and add fresh lemon to your water (dissolves stones and keeps them from forming). Otherwise, oxalates should not be a problem.
Mark Bricklin says, "The role of vitamin B4 in preventing stone formation involves a complicated chain of reactions that still isn't entirely understood. Basically, it lowers the amount of oxalate in the urine of people who have a disposition toward kidney stones."
- Mark Bricklin, The Practical Encyclopedia of Natural Healing
Test Your Stomach Acid
Our stomach is very acidic by design. It is supposed to have a pH of 1 or 2, similar to battery acid. Taking medications to lower stomach acid leads to problems. We need stomach acid high enough:
- To protect us from foreign invaders
- If you don’t have good stomach acid, you might get food poisoning more often.
- Low stomach acid opens the door to h. pylori infections
- To help us digest our food
a. To digest and breakdown protein
b. For nutrient absorption
o If you didn’t break down your food in the stomach because your stomach acid is low, then you aren’t going to be absorbing your minerals.
§ When we don't absorb minerals this can lead to osteoporosis and other conditions
Taking antacids and GERD medication
- changes the acid level and will interfere with your ability to digest food and absorb nutrients
Low stomach acid can lead to low Vitamin B12 levels
– Supplement with a sublingual B12
– Most older people have B12 deficiency
o Signs: depression, diarrhea, fatigue, memory loss, numbing of hands and feet, sleep disturbances, and weakness
How to Test to Determine if You Have Enough Stomach Acid
i. Buy Betaine HCl capsules, 350-750 mg
ii. Begin by taking one capsule with a meal that contains protein and observe how you feel.
iii. If you don’t need to supplement HCl, you will feel discomfort because this capsule is putting acid on top of sufficient acid.
iv. Burning, backache, diarrhea, or anything abnormal.
v. If you do need HCl, you will feel nothing.
vi. The next protein-containing meal, take 2 HCl capsules.
vii. Continue each meal increasing until you observe symptoms (up to 3,000 mg)
viii. Take HCl with meals, but don’t stay on it too long. It is better to switch over to taking a tsp of ACV in water 30 minutes before a meal.